The Power of Contrast

Contrast In Design: Placing opposites next to each other.

Contrast can be used in several ways. Contrast of texture. Contrast of pattern. Contrast of color. Today, we’re going to take a look at how contrast of color – and more specifically, the value and hue of color – affects interiors. When talking about color, value is a term used to describe the lightness and darkness of color. Hue is a term used to describe the spectrum of the color, and has a direct correlation with how we name colors. The hue may be blue, purple, yellow, etc.

Monochromatic Design

First, let’s take a look at some monochromatic spaces.  Monochromatic spaces use contrast very sparingly. Essentially, using a lack of contrast to create a very soothing feel. One item seems to just melt into the next – creating a soft look, that is comfortable and very easy to look at.

Monochromatic design utilizes contrast in other aspects: texture & pattern – to create interest, and is a great style for someone wanting to achieve a calming and timeless look.
Monochromatic design may not be well suited for the elderly. As one ages, it is helpful to have bright light and contrasting colors to help clearly see items, like the edge of the bed, the top of a bedside table, the edge of a rug, etc.

High Contrast

High contrast spaces create excitement, activity, and interest. You’ll see contrast not only in value (lightness & darkness), but also in hue in these spaces.

Perhaps the epitome of high contrast design: classic black and white.

Consistent Hue, Contrasting Value

These spaces use a consistent hue, but different values (or shades) of that same color. Because of the consistent hue, these rooms have some of the soothing qualities of monochromatic  rooms – with toned downs pops of interest from using the different values or shades.

When creating a “Consistent Hue, Contrasting Value” space, be brave when choosing the colors you are layering. The shades don’t have to be on the exact same strip of the color wheel – notice how the 2 base pillows on the bed below have a more blue-based green, and the front pillow is a more yellow-based green. This helps creates interest when layering green on green.

Multi-Hue Balanced Contrast

Most of us are probably more comfortable and familiar with decorating our homes in a “Multi-Hue Balanced Contrast” look. Utilizing at least 2 to 3 different hues (or colors), in several different values.

Light tones, medium tones, and dark tones; mixed with several different hues.
There you have it – the low down on contrast, color, hue, and value. Contrast is a powerful thing! I’d love to hear which look you prefer! Or do you use multiple types of contrast throughout your home – differing room by room? Share your thoughts below!
-Rachel
  1. Kay Marshall Reply

    Loved this post, Rachael. Being the traditionalist that I am, I really like the multi-hue balanced contrast. Probably not brave enough to try the other looks…

  2. Rachel Rardon Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing Kay! Glad you enjoyed the post. My house is actually mostly multi-hue balanced too – with a little bit of high contrast mixed in. :)

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